Archive 2008 - 2019

Invading Holliston, Garlic Mustard

by Diane Crefeld

Garlic mustard is another invasive species threatening native plants in Massachusetts and the woodland critters.  The plant spreads rapidly and inhibits the growth of native species in two ways.  1.  Garlic mustard begins growing earlier in the spring than many native plants and 2.  Garlic Mustard changes the chemical composition of the soil where it grows making it inhospitable for native species. 

These are two very good reasons to do what you can to eliminate garlic mustard from your property or nearby woodlands.  The good news is that removing garlic mustard early on is not as difficult as other invasive species.  Pull it early and often before it goes to seed and you will save yourself a lot of headaches (or backaches) in the future.   

( This one is in a clump of them on the rail trail behind the Hollston Food Pantry.)

This year the plants are up early and already blooming but have not yet gone to seed so now is the time to pull it.  If you wait, each plant is capable of producing thousands of seeds which have a high germination rate and next year you will have a carpet of Garlic Mustard Seedlings.  Google ‘Garlic Mustard’ and you will find a wealth of information about the plant with photos galore.  Here are two very informative websites:


Garlic Mustard, pull some now or pull more later.


Things to know about Garlic Mustard …

  1. The plant spreads by seed.  Each plant produces thousands of seeds.  The seeds are viable for up to five years.
  2. The plant takes two years to produce seeds.  First year plants are smaller with slightly more rounded leaves.  It’s best to get these if you can.
  3. The plant does not propagate from the roots.  The roots, however, exude a toxin that changes the soil composition.  Pulling most of the root out will be sufficient to minimize the impact of the toxin and prevent the plant from coming back.
  4. Pulling it is the best way to eliminate it.   Pulling the plant is usually fairly easy.  You do not need to get the entire root system as it does not propagate from the root but get as much as you can since the roots contain the toxin which effects the chemical composition of the soil
  5. Other ways to eliminate it: 
    1. If you find a large patch and you don’t have time/energy/will to pull it, it can be mowed down.  Do not mow after the plant has gone to seed!  Mowing the plant will prevent it from going to seed and spreading but bag the clippings in plastic.  Do not mow after the plant has gone to seed!  (It is worth repeating.)  Be very careful to bag all the flowers as even flowers which have been cut down go to seed.
    2. If the ground is inaccessible to a mower you could weed whack it and then rake up and bag the clippings.  This may work well with first year plants which do not produce seeds. 
    3. In some areas of the country they have resorted to controlled burns but this is only effective on first year growth. 
    4. If you have access to a goat, let him eat it!  Behhh!  More on this later.
    5. If you find a blooming plant look around it.  Garlic Mustard does not bloom until the second year.  Around the blooming plant you will probably see first year plants whose leaves look slightly different.  Pull them or rake them up.  They won’t produce seeds so they can be composted or tossed in a corner but the roots still contain chemicals which prevent other plants from growing.  Be careful what you do with it.
  6. What to do with it after you pull it?  Do not put the plants in your compost.  Do not mix them in the yard waste.  Place the plants in a plastic bag to kill the plant but the seeds may still be viable for up to five years.  The town of Sudbury is burning it.  I am investigating other options including feeding it to livestock such as goats or chickens.
  7. FYI:  If your neighbor has garlic mustard growing in their yard you will be sure to have a patch next year.  You may already have the first year plants.  Do what you can to educate your neighbors.
  8. For more information about garlic mustard and photos to assist with identification you can go to the following website.
  9. Pull, Baby, Pull...

Comments (7)

I am marking a town map to indicate where there are large bunches. Last night I pulled some near the rail trail which had grown to about 4 feet tall! Please send me an email regarding location.

Diane Crefeld | 2012-05-11 15:08:23

This is great to know. Thank you. Do you have any thoughts on the horrible twine-like plant that seems to choke trees and envelope stone-walls? It is encroaching on my yard and I seem to be losing.

anonymous | 2012-05-11 14:50:15

Thanks, Professor Crefeld! I'd heard about but not seen this.Am ready to do battle.

Pat Fuller | 2012-05-10 16:16:22

Oh my, I have seen this in my yard and left it to flower, not knowing what it was. I had a gardner this year weed my beds for me and I think left some. Guess I better get out and check.

Cindy | 2012-05-10 13:57:15

Mr. Mayor didn't write the story Jeanne, a neighbor of mine did and pointed out this invasive. Then I noticed it everywhere at the new park next to CVS. The next day at my farm on Highland Street an Audabon employee came up out of the woods and I asked him if he was counting deer. No he said he was killing mustard garlic. I never knew about the stuff till this year.

Bobby Blair | 2012-05-10 10:56:24

Thanks for the info. This stuff is surrounding my yard and closing in. I have been pulling it up, but I'm heavily outnumbered.

LT | 2012-05-10 09:48:16

That's what that plant is!!! I've been pulling it for two years now. Just it's habit made me know it couldn't be a good thing....although I've made the mistake of throwing it in my mulch pile. Thanks for the education, Mr. mayor.

Jeanne Murphy | 2012-05-10 08:18:59